Ilya Iosifovich Kabakov

Ilya Iosifovich Kabakov of Mattituck, son of Iosif Bensionovitch Kabakov and Bertha Judelevna Solodukhina, passed away surrounded by his family on Saturday, May 27, 2023, at the age of 89.

A great artist, philosopher, beloved husband, treasured father, and adored grandfather, he will be honored at a public memorial in the coming weeks. 

Born in 1933 in Dnipropetrovsk, USSR (now Dnipro, Ukraine), Kabakov began his formal artistic education at the age of 10. Eight years later, he enrolled at the Surikov State Art Institute in Moscow as a student of graphic design and book illustration. Throughout his “official” career in the Soviet Union, he illustrated over one hundred children’s books. Unofficially, he created dozens of paintings, drawings, and installations, and over the course of the following three decades, he became the leader of the Sretensky Boulevard Group — an artist collective that gathered in his and other artists’ studios to discuss their views on unofficial art — and the Moscow Conceptualist movement, working alongside fellow artists Erik Bulatov and Oleg Vassiliev, as well as prominent intellectuals such as Boris Groys.

In 1983, Kabakov completed his first “total installations,” and is considered the creator of the genre. In 1985, Kabakov’s works were shown in the West, in an exhibition at Bern Kunsthalle, curated by Jean-Hubert Martin and Claudia Jolles. In 1987, Kabakov left the USSR to pursue his artistic career in Austria.

Beginning in 1989, Ilya began to work with Emilia Kanevsky (née Lekach), whom he knew from childhood, and they married in 1992. Together, they are the recipients of the Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Oskar Kokoschka Prize, Praemium Imperiale, Cartier Prize, Medals for Life and Achievements in Art, El Greco Award for Lifetime Achievement, and many more. They are Honorary Academics of Vienna Art University; Moscow Art Academy; Sorbonne University, Paris; and Bern University, Switzerland.

Their works, delving into human fears, insecurities, and dreams, explored themes of utopia, life under totalitarian suppression, and the history of art, and are in public and private collections all over the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum, Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, MAXXI Museum, MUMOK Museum, Kunstmuseum Bern, Kunstmuseum Basel, Zug Kunsthaus, The State Hermitage Museum, The Tretyakov Gallery, Abu Dhabi Royal Collection, Sharjah Museum, Stedelijk Museum, National Museum of Norway, Van Abbemuseum, Mori Museum of Art, and Echigo-Tsumari.

Dedicated to philanthropy, nurturing of young artists, and promoting peace, Ilya and Emilia have presented 18 years of “The Ship of Tolerance,” an international humanitarian art project that unites children from different backgrounds, socio-economic classes, and religions.

A dreamer, inventor, painter, sculptor, writer, and a brilliant, kind and gentle soul, Ilya was prodigiously creative, working to his very last moments and leaving an incredible legacy for future generations. He is survived by his wife, Emilia; his daughter, Galina; stepdaughters, Isis and Viola; sons-in-law, Alexandre and Doug; his grandchildren, Joseph, Orliana, Aurora, Anja and her husband Xavier; and his great-grandchildren, Anastasia and Maxim.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that charitable donations be made to Mattituck-Laurel Library ( or the Ship of Tolerance/Ilya and Emilia Kabakov Foundation (

Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Home in Mattituck.

This is a paid notice.